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The Maya developed wrote using pictures or drawings called pictographs. Each picture had its own meaning. The Maya could write in full sentences and even stories. A story was made by drawing several pictures together. The Maya covered their cities and buildings with hieroglyphs carved into the stone. 

Most Mayas could read some hieroglyphs. But priests and nobles were probably the only people who knew the whole language.  The Maya carved these symbols into stone, and made books from tree bark. 

They would take one strip of bark and fold it over and over to make pages. These "books" were wrapped with wood and deer hide.


They are called codices, codex is singular (meaning one). The Maya would write with quills made from turkey feathers. When the Spanish came, they burned many books.  Only four remain today. It probably took several weeks or more to write each codex.

Each image was first outlined with black ink made of a coal base. The first drawing was done with a tool made from the thorns of the maguey cactus or from chips and bones of small animals including birds. Brushes were made of animal hair.

Using color to illustrate the codices was not done just for looks. Colors and shades of colors meant a lot  The Maya gave a special meaning to each color, which they related with gods, nature and the sky.

People thought the writers were in touch with the gods. The codices were considered sacred. The books were kept in special rooms inside temples and important buildings.